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The golden apples dance on the bough,
Yellow and mellow; a rosy flush
On the side o' the sun, betraying how
The pulp within is ripened and lush
With the juice of a summer's garnering. Fair
To the eyes they hang, as the fabled fruit
Of the tree in the famed Hesperides, where
A dragon coils at the root.


No dragon here, with its beryl eyes
And tongue of flame! It is but to pass
A step or two from the path which lies
So bleak, and tread o'er the yielding grass,
Crushing the buds as one goes; to clutch
Yon bough, an easy reach as you stand,
And straight, with never a tug or a touch
The fruit lies there in the hand.


Sin? But the trespass is so slight--
So small, indeed, I could almost hold
It not to be. Just mark how the light
Touches that topmost cluster with gold,--
Feast for a god! to set the teeth
In the mottled skin, and to crush through where
The luscious pulpiness melts beneath--
Hist! Did a voice cry "Beware"?


Bah! what folly, to gaze and long,
With lips that water and wistful eyes.
Coward! to linger and prate of wrong.
Forward a stride and you reach the prize.
So! And the fruit for which you pined
Lies in the hand, and bite you must.
The teeth tear into the rind--to find
The core but ashes and dust!


Fool! to be fooled by the fair outside.
Curse, if you will; it is all too late--
Fit reward of folly and pride.
This is the end of it all, then. Wait.
Turn it over. The nether half
Was flecked and specked with splotches of rot.
Ah, now that lurking fiend's harsh laugh
Is hard to bear; is it not?


Hard; but it galls not half so sore
As your own contempt. You have had your will,
Taken your fate in your hand as you swore.
Of the fruit forbidden now eat your fill,
For none will hinder you. Ah, you see
Clearer now than before your fall
That sin is sin, and must ever be,
Though it were never so small.


Go! you have learned your lesson, and so
Back to the path, with the ash on your lip.
Something of wile and of guile you know,
To guard your feet lest again they slip.
Beautiful gilded deceit! Ay, such
You'll find, in its every guise, is sin;
Fair to the eye and warm to the touch,
But ashes and dust within.